Monday, July 26, 2010

Sweden - Trafficking, Prostitution, & the Sex Industry

The Swedish Approach to Trafficking, Prostitution and the Sex Industry
Trafficking, Prostitution and the Sex Industry: The Nordic Legal Model
By Janice Raymond* - 21 July 2010
There is no doubt that the Nordic countries lead the world on most indicators of 
gender equality. Gender equality experts and advocates have long pointed out 
that in economics, politics and social services, the Nordic countries top the 
charts. A less noticed equality indicator is that the Nordic countries outpace 
others in legal action to stem the sex trade by addressing its unnoticed 
perpetrators -- the mainly male purchasers of women and children in 
In 1999, with the approval of over 70% of its surveyed population, Sweden passed 
groundbreaking legislation that criminalized the buyer of sexual services. Part 
of a larger Violence Against Women bill, the legislation was based on the 
foundation that the system of prostitution is a violation of gender equality. 
Sweden's legislation officially recognizes that it is unacceptable for men to 
purchase women for sexual exploitation, whether masked as sexual pleasure or 
"sex work." Equally important, its law acknowledges that a country cannot 
resolve its human trafficking problem without addressing the demand for 
prostitution. The law does not target the persons in prostitution.
This month, the government of Sweden published an evaluation of the law's first 
ten years and how it has actually worked in practice. Compared to the report's 
understated and cautious tone, the findings are strikingly positive: street 
prostitution has been cut in half; there is no evidence that the reduction in 
street prostitution has led to an increase in prostitution elsewhere, whether 
indoors or on the Internet; the bill provides increased services for women to 
exit prostitution; fewer men state that they purchase sexual services; and the 
ban has had a chilling effect on traffickers who find Sweden an unattractive 
market to sell women and children for sex. Following initial criticism of the 
law, police now confirm it works well and has had a deterrent effect on other 
organizers and promoters of prostitution. Sweden appears to be the only country 
in Europe where prostitution and sex trafficking has not increased.
The Swedish results should be contrasted to neighboring countries such as 
Denmark where there are no legal prohibitions against the purchase of persons in 
prostitution. Denmark has a smaller population than Sweden (roughly 5 ? million 
to Sweden's 9 million), yet the scale of street prostitution in Denmark is three 
times higher than in Sweden.
In casting the comparison further, we should note the dismal results of the 
legalization model of prostitution from countries in Europe that have normalized 
pimping, brothels and other aspects of prostitution and the sex industry. In 
2002, Germany decriminalized procuring for purposes of prostitution, widened the 
legal basis for establishing brothels and other prostitution businesses, lifted 
the prohibition against promoting prostitution and theoretically gave women the 
right to contracts and benefits in prostitution establishments. Five years 
later, a federal government evaluation of the law found that the German 
Prostitution Act, as it is called, has failed to improve conditions for women in 
the prostitution industry nor helped women to leave. It has also failed "to 
reduce crime in the world of prostitution." As a result, the report stated that 
"prostitution should not be considered to be a reasonable means for securing 
one's living." The federal government is drafting a criminal provision to punish 
the clients of those forced into prostitution or who are victims of trafficking 
-- the Swedish model lite with all its caloric value removed.
The results are equally bad in the Netherlands where prostitution and the sex 
industry have been legalized since 2000. Two official reports in 2007 and 2008 
have soured official optimism about the Dutch legalization model. The 
government-commissioned Daalder Report found that the majority of women in the 
window brothels are still subject to pimp control and that their emotional 
well-being is lower than in 2001 "on all measured aspects." The Dutch National 
Police Report puts it more strongly: "The idea that a clean, normal business 
sector has emerged is an illusion..." Like the Germans, the Dutch are now 
proposing an amendment that would penalize the buyers who purchase unlicensed 
persons in prostitution -- another version of the Swedish model lite. Still, an 
indication that penalizing the buyer is gaining ground.
The failure of the legalization model in Europe helped the Swedish model to 
become the Nordic model in 2009 when Norway outlawed the purchase of women and 
children for sexual activities. One year after the Norwegian law came into 
force, a Bergen municipality survey estimated that the number of women in street 
prostitution had decreased by 20 percent with indoor prostitution also down by 
16 percent. Bergen police report that advertisements for sexual activities have 
dropped 60 percent. Also, the police have effectively monitored telephone 
numbers of buyers, who respond to such advertisements, in order to identify and 
charge them. An added value is that monitoring reveals a wider network of 
criminal groups involved in trafficking for prostitution and their links to 
others involved in child prostitution, pornography and drug trafficking. In 
Oslo, the police also report that there are many fewer buyers on the street.
The same year as Norway, Iceland passed a law criminalizing the purchase of a 
sexual service. Earlier in 2004, Finland approved a more anemic version of the 
Nordic model. This left Denmark as the outlier with no legislation targeting the 
demand for prostitution.
The success of the Nordic model is not so much in penalizing the men (the 
penalties are modest) as in removing the invisibility of men who are outed when 
they get caught. This, in turn, makes it less appealing for pimps and 
traffickers to set up shop in countries where the customer base fears the loss 
of its anonymity and is declining.
Legalization of prostitution is a failed policy in practice. The prostitution 
policy tide is turning from legalization of prostitution to targeting the demand 
for prostitution without penalizing the victims. Countries who want to be 
effective in the fight against trafficking and not havens of sexual exploitation 
are beginning to understand that they cannot sanction pimps as legitimate sexual 
entrepreneurs and must take legal action against the buyers.
*Janice Raymond is Professor Emerita of Women's Studies at the University of 
Massachusetts, Amherst and a member of the Board of Directors of the Coalition 
Against Trafficking in Women (CATW). Janice G. Raymond. Ph.D Professor Emerita 
University of Massachusetts, Amherst (USA)
Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) PO Box 9338, N. Amherst, MA 01059 
USA Fax: 413-367-9262 E- mail:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Violence against women is a worldwide yet still hidden problem. Freedom from the threat of harassment, battering, and sexual assault is a concept that most of us have a hard time imagining because violence is such a deep part of our cultures and lives.